- Feb 2018
Máire Ní Mhongáin
As Ciarán Ó Con Cheanainn writes in Leabhar Mór na nAmhrán, the oldest written version of this song dates to 1814, and is found in MS Egerton 117 in the British Library. Oral lore in Conneamara has it that Máire Ní Mhongáin’s three sons joined the British Army, and that Peadar deserted soon after joining, and emigrated to America. It seems probable that their involvement was in the French Revolutionary Wars or the Napoleonic Wars, the major conflicts fought by the British Army in the final decade of the eighteenth century and the first decade of the nineteenth respectively.
Máire Ní Mhongáin seems to have resonated among Irish emigrant communities in the United States. My evidence for this is that Micheál Ó Gallchobhair of Erris, County Mayo, collected songs from Erris emigrants living in Chicago in the 1930s, over a century after the occasion of ‘Amhrán Mháire Ní Mhongáin’s’ composition. It features in his collection, which you access via the following link: http://www.jstor.org.ucc.idm.oclc.org/stable/20642542?seq=2#page_scan_tab_contents
The virulent cursing of departed sons by the mother, named Máre, produces the effect of striking g contrasts with John Millington Synge’s bereaves mother, Old Maurya, in Riders to the Sea.
My Irish Studies blog features an in-depth account of typical features of the caoineadh genre to which Amhrán Mháire Ní Mhongáin belongs. You can access it via the following link: johnwoodssirishstudies.wordpress.com/2018/01/03/carraig-aonair-an-eighteenth-century-west-cork-poem/